Expressing love with jewellery has been a tradition long adopted by lovers in London, and you have only to delve into our collection of ‘posy rings’ to see this reflected throughout the ages.
These delightful gold finger rings are defined by a short inscription (a ‘posy’, ‘posie’ or ‘poesy’) blazoned on their surface. With romantic quotations inscribed on the ring’s inner surface, they were most popular among courting lovers between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Whereas romantic inscriptions during the middle ages would be found etched onto the outside of finger rings, by the 16th century these private declarations of love showed up on the inside of the ring, ‘next the finger, not to be seen of him that holdeth you by the hand.’ (Art of English Poesie)
By the 17th century, ‘poesies’ were cropping up everywhere and adorned all sorts of objects – not just rings but on knives, spoons and even girdles and trenchers! Books like The Academy of Complements or A new way of Wooing, published in London, were plundered by jewellers and their customers alike, searching for pithy declarations of love that would impress the ring’s wearer.
Once used as wedding rings, and even tokens of memorial, posy rings began to go out of fashion by the end of the 18th century. While today’s trends still see people opting for clothes and jewellery emblazoned with designer names and mottoes, these words are now so often chosen by designers rather than by poets, writers or individuals themselves.